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Last Updated on August 24, 2022 by Scott
Have you ever wanted to try matcha tea, but then hesitated because of the price? The high price point is often deters people from enjoying this wonderful beverage.
Matcha tea is expensive because it tends to be high quality and has a complicated production process. The standards for matcha are strict, and the plants grow slowly; it can take them 7 years to reach maturity. Only small quantities of matcha can be ground at once, and only young leaves are used.
Matcha is a fascinating tea, so let’s find out about why it is expensive, why the demand for matcha is so high, how this tea is grown, and more!
How Is Matcha Tea Produced?
Matcha tea is produced by:
- Planting the seeds for the plant (Camellia Sinensis) in soil that is both moist and fertile. The quality of the soil will make a big difference to the quality of the tea, so it’s important for the land to be suitable if good matcha is to be grown there. This is often referred to as terroir.
- The seeds are tended to and cared for by the farmer as the plants grow and mature. It takes these seeds up to 7 years to be ready to harvest, so tea farmers need to ensure that the land won’t be disturbed in the meantime.
- When the tea is almost ready to harvest, the plants need to be covered (shaded). This has to be done 6 weeks before harvesting, and it can be a big challenge. Doing this increases the amount of chlorophyll in the plant, as well as bumping up the production of amino acids. This enhances the flavor of the tea and gives it the distinctive notes that have made it so popular.
- When the 6 weeks have passed, the tea is harvested. The old leaves are left, and only the young leaves are taken from the plants, as these produce the best matcha tea.
- Once the leaves have been picked, they are steamed, dried, and then sorted according to quality. They must then be de-stemmed and deveined, which is a lengthy process. It produces Tencha.
- The Tencha is sent to stone mills, where it can be ground into powder. This is another lengthy process. Stone must be used because other grinding methods result in more heat, which destroys the tea and ruins its color and nutrition. However, stone grinding is slow and it could take over 2 hours to produce just 60 g of matcha.
The process for making matcha is certainly a long one, and requires enormous time investments – which contributes to the high price this tea commands.
Why Is Matcha In Such High Demand?
Matcha is in high demand for a variety of reasons, including:
- It has a unique taste and is different from other kinds of teas.
- It contains a large number of amino acids. The oxygen radical absorbance capacity of matcha is thought to be around 1,380 units per gram. This is massively higher than the count of other foods that are highly regarded, including goji berries, broccoli, blueberries, and spinach.
- It is thought to have the ability to suppress cancer due to its antioxidant properties, and may be able to fight against prostate cancer, cervical cancer, brain cancer, and more.
- It has high levels of vitamins and minerals, so it is generally considered a healthy addition to any diet.
- It may promote relaxation and enhance mental alertness, as it contains L-theanine, which is an amino acid that is thought to reduce stress.
The high demand for this tea has obviously contributed to its costs, because manufacturers are having to produce more and can afford to charge higher prices due to the market appetite.
Does Cheap Matcha Taste As Good As Expensive Matcha?
As you might expect, there are noticeable differences between expensive matcha and cheap matcha. If you have only consumed cheap matcha, you may not realize just how different expensive matcha can taste; it’s not nearly as bitter, and the flavor is much smoother. It also make a difference whether you are enjoying your matcha hot or cold.
The differentiating factor is usually whether the matcha is called culinary matcha or ceremonial matcha. Ceremonial matcha is expensive and high quality, and it’s intended to be mixed with water and enjoyed. It’s generally sweeter, smoother, with an umami-rich flavor, and better for you.
Culinary matcha is best to be used in foods and mixes, and may not contain the same level of vitamins and minerals.
If you’re going to buy expensive matcha you must make sure to store it in an airtight container to preserve its quality. This is critical if you want a return on your investment – whether financially or in terms of the health benefits. If not sealed properly, matcha will lose quality over time.
Is Matcha More Expensive Than Other Kinds of Tea?
Matcha is typically more expensive than other kinds of tea (with the exception of certain puerh teas), partly because it’s harder to produce and requires more processing. Although it comes from the tea plant, the different production process means that it costs more and tastes better.
To make matcha, you need to have fine, fertile soil, a mild climate, and elevated ground. This limits the areas that it can be grown in, making it more exclusive and expensive even before the different processing kicks in.
Matcha has to be covered before harvesting, which adds to the expense, and only the young leaves are picked, reducing the amount of the plant that can be harvested.
The picking and grinding processes are also different, as matcha is powdered, while other teas are simply dried as leaves. Because it takes so long to grind the matcha, this significantly adds to the cost. Overall, therefore, there are many things that add to the price of matcha tea.
What Is The Average Cost Of Matcha?
The price of matcha will vary a lot depending on where you buy it and the quantity you purchase, as well as whether you buy culinary grade or ceremonial grade.
Ceremonial grade matcha could cost as much as $66 for 28 servings, making it around $33 per ounce. But, again, the price fluctuates based on the brand, sourcing and other considerations.
By contrast, if you purchase one of the cheaper options, which is likely to be culinary grade matcha, it will probably cost around $14 for 3.5 ounces, only around $4 per ounce. Some may be even cheaper, coming in at around $2 per ounce, but be wary of this, as cheap matcha will not have the quality and flavor that you are likely to be looking for.
Can Matcha Be Grown In Places Other Than Japan?
Most matcha is grown and produced in Japan, despite the fact that it originated in China. It has been cultivated in Japan for hundreds of years, and the climate is particularly well suited for it, so you will often find that Japanese matcha is the best quality option.
However, it is possible to grow matcha in other similar climates, and it can be grown in Korea, Vietnam, and China.
What Are The Health Benefits That Make It Worth The Cost?
We briefly touched on some of the health benefits associated with matcha earlier and further research is needed for many of these, but they include:
- Anti-cancer: matcha’s antioxidants are thought to be able to fight off a range of cancers, including bladder, brain, and cervical cancer.
- Improved metabolism: matcha is thought to give your metabolism a boost, helping you to lose weight and making you feel healthier. It may also improve your digestive health.
- There are certain chronic illnesses that may be helped by matcha, such as diabetes, and it may have a positive impact on blood pressure as well. Because it is so full of antioxidants, it benefits many parts of the body, repairing damage, improving your skin, and offering a general boost of both vitamins and minerals.
Matcha may be a green tea, but the production and picking methods make it very different from all other green tea offerings, and it’s an ideal choice if you’re looking for a healthy and satisfying drink. The boosted chlorophyll production and high levels of amino acids make it totally unique, and the flavor is incomparable with other kinds of tea. Some people have even wondered if matcha is safe for dogs, but considering the high cost of matcha you may want to be selective!
Scott is the founder of TeaMinded. He enjoys tasting and discovering teas from across the globe, with green teas and ceremonial matcha from Japan being among his favorites. He’s grateful to be immersed in the tea community, always learning and sharing along the journey.